SEO is confusing, link building is getting harder, Google never seems to amaze us with updates and thousands of people are not sure if content marketing is the right word or link building.
In this expert interview, Julie Joyce, Link building expert, founder of Link Fish Media and contributor to Search Engine Watch bares her mind on SEO, Link building and the much expected mobile algorithm update from Google. Care to know what she does when she is not building links ? Read on:
Name: Julie Joyce
Q1: The SEO industry has come a long way. How long have you been in the industry and why did you decide to specialize in link building in particular?
I started out as a programmer and was asked to do some work for the SEO team around 2001, then by 2002 I kind of got thrown into the lead SEO role so I just learned on the fly as I had about 2 actual weeks of training before the previous lead left the company. I didn’t decide to specialize in links so much as that’s how it ended up. My husband started the company as a way to fulfil a link supplier need for the company we worked for, and then word got around and here we are! I do love link building but I’d have probably tried to specialize more in the technical SEO area.
Q2: The SEO industry seems to me like an industry where we never agree on anything. We never agree on what factors Google employs in ranking websites and right now there is a lot of controversy about what link building is and how it should be done. What do you think is wrong?
I think the main thing that’s wrong is that so many people want to vilify a legitimate way to market your site online. Link building is extremely tedious work if you are building good links, and a lot of people hate that fact. Just like anything else, it seems like a lot of speciality areas in SEO want to trash the others so they can keep selling what they sell. I think not informing your client of the risk and details of what you’re doing is what is most wrong right now. It’s shameful to hide or lie about it especially when you consider what’s at stake. In terms of link building, even things that we don’t do (like social bookmarking or comment link dropping) can still work in some cases so it’s hard to say that they’re wrong. Things that violate Google’s newest set of guidelines still work, so I can’t say that they’re wrong either.
Q3: Do you think there is a difference between link building and content marketing?
I feel like I have a different opinion any time I’m asked that question. I think the goal is the same even if people don’t admit it. The details can be different of course, but even if we’re writing content and shopping it around, I don’t call it content marketing because my goal is the link. Content marketing is the new feel-good phrase though isn’t it? One day it’ll be as bad as saying you do link building though.
Q4: Link builders seem to be a peculiar set of human beings. What particular trait do you think every link builder should have?
Tenacity, first of all. You really have to keep at it to get good links, and if you give up easily or are easily discouraged it’s not for you. Secondly, being able to think like a human and not an SEO is key for us. Our guys really are asking themselves “would a link make sense here?” and not just pursuing easy links in order to meet quotas. Outside of that, I think link builders need to be exceptionally creative people who can see opportunities where no one else can.
Q5: What are the most common link building mistakes you often see when people start building links?
Taking any link they can get. You would be amazed when someone comes to us and we look at the work they’ve been doing and it’s nothing but dropping their URL in forum comments and having footer links on horrific sites. I can’t believe people still do that but they certainly do. If a link is really easy to get it’s very rarely a link that you want.
Q6: What are the key factors you consider when prospecting for link targets?
Does the link make sense for the page? Does the page make sense for the site? If you have a site about animal health and there’s a post about rental property and you are working for a rental property client…well a link there is going to suck. It doesn’t make sense overall. Relevancy is something that I used to think about more loosely but I’ve started to realize that overall site relevancy is a lot more important to me than the relevancy of one particular page.
I also have the link builders look to see if the webmaster specifically states that she doesn’t do text links and doesn’t want to be bothered. It takes only a few seconds to check for that info and avoid bothering someone who’s already announced that she isn’t interested.
I really don’t care that much about metrics. In fact, the main reason I look at them is because my clients do want some way to measure our work. We usually look at Majestic’s metrics for this but some clients like Moz’s metrics.
Q7: How did you learn to become a link builder and what advice can you give to someone interested in link building?
I only learned it by doing it. There was a time when I managed link builders and had not yet built a single link. I feel very strongly that you should be able to do the jobs that people you manage do, and when I started doing what they do all day, it taught me a lot. It’s hard work. You can find 10 amazingly perfect sites and send 10 personalized emails and not hear a thing back, and that can be very disheartening. I still go through that. You just have to keep at it. Once you get the first link, you’ll start thinking about the second one, and every time you get a good one you’ll gain more confidence and knowledge about how to get that next good link.
For anyone interested in it, my advice is to just jump in and do it. That’s how I’m training our latest hire. I even told her that she should expect to screw up and that I felt like she’d learn things better if she did that than if I handed her a list of no-nos. It’s worked out wonderfully. We’ve always just kind of had the attitude that everyone’s going to mess up and that most things are fixable.
Q8: One of the things that fascinate me about you is your tolerant level for risk taking when it comes to link building. Can you tell us one of such risks that backfired?
I feel like knocking on wood with this but it hasn’t backfired yet, at least not solely due to us. I actually personally check every single link that we do for all clients and if I don’t like the link I’ll reject it and tell the link builder to get it removed. We have had a couple of clients who weren’t happy with a link here and there and we always do our best to fix it, whether it’s changing it somehow or simply removing it but by and large we have been amazingly lucky with that. We have had a couple of clients blame us when they’d left us and got penalized a year or so later, but in those cases they’d been building links with other companies before, during, and after they worked with us.
I truly cannot say if I’d risk my own site with paid links, but it’s small and we don’t have a ton of links. I guess my opinion is that people ARE going to do what we do, and I’d rather do it better than anyone else and with more transparency. These clients want paid links for a reason and we’re all on board with the risk. We do other things too but that doesn’t interest anyone haha.
Q9: Where do you see link building in 10 years?
Since we have not really changed our methods in the past 8 years, if I’m still doing this in 10 years I imagine I’ll be doing the same thing. I don’t see the need for links going away. It might, and if so, well I’ll just start diving into another area of SEO. I do think it will continue to get harder and harder though, but that’s part of the fun.
Q10: Let us talk about the upcoming “mobile update by Google”. Do you think it will shake the SEO industry like the penguin and panda?
I think that every Google update shakes up the industry. I imagine it will be chaos for awhile, especially because Google doesn’t always get it right, especially the first time. I also think they love scaring the life out of all of us though, and it sells to put fear into people.
Q11: If you were to sit down with Google and ask “it”one question, what would it be?
What a fantastic question! I’d ask “why can’t you accept the fact that you truly cannot tell which links are paid and which aren’t?”
Q12: What keeps you up at night?
Thinking that I have not responded to someone or wondering about what I should write about. I have a list of ideas for my articles but sometimes I really struggle to say something new that will actually help someone, so I do a lot of night-time thinking about that.
Q13: Is there any other career you would love to try and why?
I originally went to school to be a physical anthropologist so I’d still like to return to that even though it would be almost impossible. I wanted to do forensics and be a coroner and all that still totally fascinates me.
Q14: How do you spend your time when you are not building links or reading about the SEO industry?
I watch a lot of Law and Order ha! I’ve seen them all like 50 times each but still, I can’t stop watching that show. I love to read but I never ever read marketing books. I rarely read non-fiction and I like the really dark stuff, especially anything Scandinavian. I’d love to say I spend my free time running, doing yoga, and eating well but that’s definitely not true.
And it is a wrap. Thank you Julie for doing this. I am sure there is a lot of insight to gain from this session. Got any question for Julie? Ask or tweet directly at her.